For those who don’t know the name of John Norum, let it said that the good man swings the axe in EUROPE (“The Final Countdown”) in his day-job and that he has worked with greats such as Glenn Hughes or DOKKEN during the course of his long career. Accordingly on his second solo disc “Optimus” the Norwegian presents us stuff similar to the above-mentioned bands. Solid Hard Rock, that is!
In comparison to other guitar speedsters, John Norum opts for a rather playful approach and thus he writes true Hard Rock songs and no fuddle arias. Sustained by a very good, earthy sound, you find a collection of really good songs on “Optimus”. In the heavier field you have to mention “Nailed To The Cross” above all, which rips in a really nice fashion. With the more melodic tunes, “One More Time”, “Time To Run” and the title track stand out as highlights. The remaining six songs are in a similar vein, but not always on the same level as the mentioned ones. Besides the excellent guitar playing, John Norum can also convince through his agreeable vocals. Of course he doesn’t reach Don Dokken or Glenn Hughes, but after all they play in a different league. Drums (Hux Flux (?)) and bass (Thomas Torberg) somewhat act in the background, but they join the hard rocking overall picture well. Apart from that the relatively short playing time is the only thing that strikes me as negative.
As already said in the beginning in fact, “Optimus” is a solid Hard Rock album that has its climaxes. The songs are catchy and don’t let boredom arise, even though there is no ubersmasher among the ten compositions. Despite the 70’s and 80’s touch, John Norum always sounds thick and modern, which separates them from many Hard Rock units in the new millennium. Those who are into bands like EUROPE or DOKKEN can’t go wrong with “Optimus”. All other classic Hard Rockers should at least give John Norum a listen, for the man is good at what he does! A quiet tip for disciples of Zakk Wylde by the way.
Check out tips: “Nailed To The Cross“, “One More Time“... (Online September 9, 2005)